The need for working parents to leave children alone is a consequence of the development of a highly mobile and fragmented society in which the family structure and its traditional supports are degraded by the demands of a competing and materialistic society. Although extended families traditionally care for children in such situations, in industrialized countries where both parents tend to work, such support is no longer readily available.
Increasingly, it is seen that both parents choose to work full-time even when it is not necessary for the financial stability of the family. Affluent couples are as likely as poor couples to say that they work for "the bare necessities". These parents argue that their children are well cared for in day-care centres; surveys show, however, that few parents take the time to examine the day-care they choose. Others say they would prefer to work less and spend more time with their children, but companies which offer shorter working hours or unpaid holidays find only 4% of employees take it up. The truth is that many parents prefer the pressures of work to the pressures of raising a family.
In the USA it has been estimated that there are between 9 and 12 million latchkey children. In the UK in 1993 it was estimated that up to 800,000 children between 5 and 10 could be left at home alone after school or during their holidays because their parents were working.